Seeking asylum is normal
People seeking asylum are not ‘queue jumpers’. Seeking asylum is the normal way to apply for protection as a refugee. For many countries, this is the main way for a refugee to find safety.
Australia also resettles refugees from overseas. However, this approach is appropriate for different circumstances. Resettlement is not a better or the ‘right’ way to come. In fact, people must usually first seek asylum through UNHCR before being resettled.
Not many countries resettle refugees, and very few refugees are resettled. Less than 1% of the world’s refugees are resettled every year.
UNHCR aims to prioritise those who need protection most. However, most refugees cannot expect to be resettled soon or at all.
Read the statistics on the global need for resettlement
There is no queue
People seeking asylum are not ‘queue jumpers’, because there is no queue for resettlement. In practice, the resettlement system works more like a lottery than a queue.
People cannot just wait in line, because that is not how it works. Instead, UNHCR tries to identify who needs resettlement most, and then works out which country might take them.
For example, UNHCR will consider whether someone can return home, even if conditions improve in their country. It considers whether the person is especially vulnerable – for example for people who have a disability, or are more at risk of detention. Countries also decide their own priorities and rules.
Many refugees also live in countries where UNHCR does not operate. These people cannot even get access to resettlement.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Resettlement Handbook (July 2011)
Resettlement is an essential way to protect refugees. However, there are other ways to address their needs. Most refugees would prefer to return home if it was safe to do so.
Others would rather settle in the country where they first sought asylum. However, in many of the countries where refugees move, they cannot live in dignity.